Electronic Theses and Dissertations





Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy




Cultural Studies

Committee Chair

Verner Mitchell

Committee Member

Richard Lou

Committee Member

Reginald Martin

Committee Member

Ladrica Menson-Furr


Once photography's democratization of image started to take root in mid-1800's the evolution of the projected character of Emancipated African American became entwined with the visual, as well as the literary. My work examines MacArthur Fellow Carrie Mae Weems's series From Here I Saw What Happened and I Cried as a contemporary literary text in direct dialogue with Frederick Douglass's ideas about photography's place in the regeneration of "self-image" for the new race of free African Americans. Weems's use of historical photographs originally intended to reinforce the same stereotypes Douglass hoped to defeat reclaims the individual in each image of her series through the re-manipulation of such a distorted representation. The multi-layered narrative Weems develops through her sequencing of appropriated photographs and application of poetic verse creates a "text" of literary merit, one that challenges the established boundaries of what is accepted as literature. Although Weems has received the highest accolades from the visual art world, she has yet be given the deserved attention as a writer. Her imaginative use of historical artifact as a contemporary text demands such examination in a time when our means of communicating is becoming increasingly related to an evolving visual literacy. Weems reveals the power of our past in bringing about a fresh perspective on our current position in time while deconstructing post-colonial representations of African Americans through the combined expressions of text and photography.


Data is provided by the student.

Library Comment

dissertation or thesis originally submitted to the local University of Memphis Electronic Theses & dissertation (ETD) Repository.